A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Champions the value of surrounding yourself with trusted loved ones, but undercuts this message by demonstrating how Houston's family exploited her. Makes clear how much drugs and alcohol affected Houston's life and career.
Positive Role Models
Characters are based on real, flawed people who make plenty of mistakes. Houston was very talented and worked hard, but she had many struggles, some caused or made worse by family members who worked for her, including her father, and some connected to her marriage with Bobby Brown. He's shown to be an unpredictable partner: sometimes loving, sometimes abusive.
Though Houston's life ultimately ended in a tragic and early death, she was a young Black woman who broke through to the highest stratosphere of the entertainment business, serving as a powerful symbol for women, especially Black women, all over the world. Many other Black actors appear, and the movie was directed by a Black woman, Kasi Lemmons. Includes Houston's relationship with her lifelong best friend, Robyn Crawford: The two women were a romantic couple until rumors spread about Houston's sexuality.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
Some of Houston and Brown's fights get physical: He pins her against a wall and, in a way that seems very threatening, tells her never to "disrespect" him; she responds by saying she's going to get a gun and "smoke" his "ass" (she doesn't).
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing, sometimes followed by characters shown waking up in bed together. A tumultuous marriage is part of this narrative.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Strong language includes a use of "f---ing," plus "s--t," "damn," "hell," and "ass."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Houston gets visibly wealthier over the course of the movie, with private jets, fancy hotel rooms, and a spacious and luxuriously appointed house shown.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Houston had acknowledged substance dependencies that contributed to her untimely death. She's shown smoking cigarettes and marijuana and preparing to smoke crack: She gets a glass pipe out and lights a spoon, but viewers don't see her actually inhale. Many characters drink to excess, and the effect of both drink and drugs is evident in characters who are sloppy and incoherent. In a touching scene, Houston's attentive manager tells her that she should go to rehab, but Houston doesn't.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that I Wanna Dance with Somebody is a biopic about the life and career of Whitney Houston (Naomi Ackie), the talented singer who in the 1980s and 1990s had more hit singles than the Beatles. Most viewers will know going in that Houston died in 2012 at age 48. While her untimely death isn't depicted on-screen, viewers do see plenty of other iffy content as the film presents episodes from her life. Houston smokes cigarettes and marijuana and drinks wine and liquor. She's also shown rolling up a dollar bill in preparation for snorting cocaine and lighting a spoon and wielding a glass pipe in preparation for smoking crack. Drugs played a part in her death, as well as in her tumultuous relationship with singer Bobby Brown (Ashton Sanders). They fight frequently and use substances together; in one scene, Brown threatens Houston physically, and she says she's going to get a gun and shoot him dead. Sexual content includes passionate kissing (including between Houston her lifelong best friend, Robyn Crawford, whom she was in a relationship with until rumors spread about Houston's sexuality), implied sex, and heated discussion of infidelity. Strong language includes "f---ing," "s--t," "damn," "hell," and "ass." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Most viewers will know exactly where this biopic is headed, but it avoids becoming a complete downer by concentrating largely on Houston's successes rather than her flaws. As Houston, Ackie is vibrant and sympathetic. She's larger than life, just as Houston was herself, and inhabits the movie's many full-length performance scenes with spine-tingling star oomph. Fans familiar with Houston's onstage high points -- including the 1994 American Music Awards medley that many call her greatest TV turn and her extraordinary 1991 rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl 25 -- will likely break out in goosebumps watching Ackie powerfully reenacting those moments (although, no, she's not singing herself, except for a few moments when she sings between snatches of dialogue, though she does an excellent lip synch to Houston's vocals).
But in between high-point performances, things sag a bit. The movie rushes through many parts of Houston's story, a typical problem with films that try to condense decades' worth of life into a two-hour running time. And the movie doesn't seem to have a good idea of why Houston transitioned from being America's sweetheart to becoming a tabloid staple. Problems arise (Daddy steals Whitney's money, Brown cheats) and are just as quickly dismissed. Thankfully, I Wanna Dance with Somebody is refreshingly clear on the nature of Houston's relationship with her lifelong best friend, Robyn Crawford (they were a romantic couple until rumors spread about Houston's sexuality), and doesn't dwell on Houston's hit-bottom points: There's no mention of Brown and Houston's infamous reality show, for instance. Ultimately, though, you're left with the impression that you didn't learn much more about Houston than you knew going in, and that's a bitter pill to swallow considering the film's expansive 2-hour, 26-minute running time. But when Ackie takes the stage as Houston, this drama soars, and for fans, that may be enough.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.